The Directorate General of Health Services has instructed immediate closure of the Uttara and Mirpur branches of Regent Hospital after the dedicated COVID-19 private hospital was blamed for counterfeiting several thousand coronavirus test certificates without testing the samples.
A Rapid Action Battalion mobile court after their second-day raids on the hospital and the Regent Group’s main office in Uttara on Tuesday sealed them off.
RAB officials said that they arrested eight people and were searching for the chairman of the Regent Group and Regent Hospital, Md. Shahed, and the group’s managing director Masud to arrest them.
There were preparations under way to lodge a case against 17 people, including the top brass of the hospital, they added.
Md Aminul Hasan, the director for hospitals and clinics at the DGHS, on Tuesday ordered the halt to all the functions of the hospital as various irregularities surfaced during the RAB raid on the hospital’s Uttara branch on Monday.
Regent Hospital was one of the private hospitals that were permitted to provide COVID-19 treatment in the early stage of infections in March.
Aminul in a release said that Regent Hospital’s both Uttara and Mirpur branches had been providing treatment services to COVID-19 patients since March but various irregularities were noticed in the hospital’s Uttara branch during the RAB mobile court operation there.
Earlier, on Monday, the RAB conducted raids on the Uttara and Mirpur branches of the hospital in the capital and found that it forged more than 6,000 COVID-19 certificates and embezzled over Tk 3 crore in the name of providing COVID-19 test services and treatment.
The mobile court, led by executive magistrate Sarwoer Alam, on Tuesday raided the Regent Group head office and seized from there many fake COVID-19 certificates, many unauthorised rapid testing kits and an unregistered jeep.
Sarwoer in a news briefing told reporters that the certificates were forged at the Regent Group’s main office in Uttara sector-12 and then sold for Tk 3,500 apiece.
Most of the fake certificates showed ‘negative’ test result, said a RAB officer.
Sarwoer said that the hospital’s registration had already expired in 2014 but still they were issued permission for doing COVID-19 test and treating COVID-19 patients.
He said that the hospital had collected over 10,000 samples and got some 4,200 of them tested from the Institute of Public Health, the National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine and the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.
The hospital had the tests done free of cost but charged Tk 3,500 for each certificate, he added.
The rest of the samples remained untested while the Regent Hospital authorities provided fake certificates against those charging the test seekers the same fee.
The hospital authorities, he went on, have embezzled over Tk 3 crore in the name of COVID-19 treatment and testing.
The RAB suspected that the owner and chairman of the hospital, Md Shahed, used to run seized vehicles having sticker of the health service department to mislead the law enforcement agencies, said Sarwoer.
The intensive care unit is in a poor state and there is also no machine in their diagnostic laboratories while the surgical instruments found at the hospital are outdated too, said RAB officials.
The hospital authorities made an agreement with the DGHS in March, 2020 stating that it would treat COVID-19 patients for free.
But the hospital was charging patients money while it submitted vouchers to the government claiming reimbursements for patients treated.
Several attempts were made to contact DGHS chief Abul Kalam Azad and DGHS director for hospitals and clinics Md Aminul Hasan as to how a hospital with its licence expired was issued the permission for providing COVID-19 test services and treatment but their mobile phones were found switched off.
The executive magistrate for the RAB raid said that attempts were being made to arrest hospital owner Shahed.
Money laundering cases may be filed against the hospital authorities in the future subject to further investigation into the incident.
Earlier, hospital managing director Mizanur Rahman filed a general diary with Uttara West Police Station on July 3 claiming that a vested quarter was collecting samples for COVID-19 test from suspected patients and taking money from them by identifying themselves as Regent Hospital staff.
In the last week of June an organisation called JKG was also accused of selling fake COVID-19 test certificates without conducting tests.
Ariful Chowdhury, one of the owners of that organisation, and five others were arrested in that incident.
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